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Technical Services

1967 -

Edge notch card
Edge notch card

Photos of the recto and verso of the original edge-notched cards used by E.A.T. for the Matchings program.

The principal  ongoing activity of E.A.T. was the Technical Services Program that was undertaken to provide artists with access to new technology for their work by matching them with engineers or scientists for a one-to-one collaboration on the artist's specific project. A part of this effort was to acquaint the technical and business communities with the needs of the artists.


E.A.T. was not committed to any one technology or type of equipment, like computers or holography; and never established a laboratory or workshop, preferring for the artist to work directly with engineers in the industrial environment which was where the technology was being made.


The Technical Services were open to all artists and no judgment was made about the aesthetic value of the artist's project or idea. An effort was made to match every artist with an engineer or scientist who could help her/him with technical information, brief assistance on a specific part of the artist’s work, or longer collaborations in developing the artist’s ideas.  The range of artists' interests was enormous, and this diversity is reflected in the letters, proposals and requests for technical help in the E.A.T. archives.  The Matchings began early in 1967 when Billy Klüver  and Fred Waldhauer, with the help of L. J. (Robby) Robinson and other 9 Evenings engineers,  began to find engineers to work with the artists who had submitted requests at the November 1966 meeting.


The equipment that had been developed and built for 9 Evenings -- amplifiers, speakers, switching systems, etc. --  was immediately made available to artists in the New York area; and engineers who had worked on the performances  volunteered to help artists who borrowed the equipment. One of the first artists to use this equipment was Carolee Schneemann for her performance, Snows in January 1967. Other artists were Lukas Foss, Concert for Cello performing Rostropovich: John Giorno, during poetry readings: Deborah Hay, for a dance concert. Later in 1967, Ralph Flynn joined the E.A.T. staff and helped artists with the loan, installation and use of equipment.


As E.A.T. continued to reach out to engineers, and more became members of the organization, the original core of volunteer engineers E.A.T. could work to answer artists’ request using the membership application forms that had been submitted. Susan Hartnett, who handled the administrative work in accepting requests, assisted the engineers using the forms and informing artists of engineers who had been selected to work with them. A meeting of the engineers who had been active from the beginning of E.A.T. was held at the loft on May 5, 1967 to discuss procedures  to begin a more formal process of matching artists and engineers, which Waldhauer, in his letter inviting interested engineers and their associates to come, wrote, “It is no doubt an historic first step that we are taking.”


By December 1967, E.A.T. reported having names on file of over 600 artists and close to 200 engineers and 60 matches were reported to have been made. In the March 1968 issue of E.A.T. News, it was reported that over 140 collaborations had been initiated through E.A.T. The number of engineers having contacted E.A.T. was given as 467. Expressions of interest, requests for technical assistance, etc. came from all over the United States and from abroad: Europe, Japan, South America.


In July 1968 Peter Poole became in charge of Matchings and Technical Services in general; and matching procedures were formally revised in the summer and fall of 1968. Application forms were refined to elicit more information from engineers and artists, and the use of the McBee Keysort system was implemented to record and retrieve the  information needed to match engineers with an artists’ request.  Information on member engineers – areas of expertise and knowledge , location, and degree of participation desired --  was transferred from their application forms and coded onto to McBee Keysort edge-notched cards. 

Edge-notched cards are cards with information on say, an engineer, written on them, which have a line of pre-punched holes along the sides. The card carries all necessary information about the engineer or artist.  To record data, the paper stock between a hole and the nearest edge was removed by a special notching tool. The holes were assigned a meaning based on the data on the card. For example, one hole might record the specialty of an engineer and other his location. By cutting or punching away (notching out) the paper between a hole and the edge of the card,  when the needle was inserted in the appropriate hole, those cards that pertain to a particular subject coded to the hole would fall out of the deck.

A request was filled by putting long thin metal needles, like knitting needles, through  certain holes in a deck of such cards, lifting and shaking gently, and as the needles were lifted, the cards that were notched in the hole positions where the needles were inserted would be left behind as rest of the deck was lifted by the needles, that is, a set of cards that belonged to a combination of categories would fall out. Thus it was possible to code the cards so that it would be possible to find electrical engineers or audio specialists in, say the Portland, Oregon, area, who wanted to work on projects with artists. Then by use of sorting needles and racks, the cards could be quickly and easily sorted, and names and contact information on an engineer could be easily retrieved according to a specific artists needs or requests. This edge-notch card system grew to hold information on technical specialties of over 1,000 engineers. Artists who made requests were then given or were sent the names, addresses, and other information of up to three engineers in their vicinity, who had expressed willingness to work with an artist.

In September 1969, E.A.T. reported a total membership of 2,500 artists and 2,000 engineers, which included members of affiliate and local groups in 17 areas in the United States and 9 abroad. At this time, E.A.T. reported that over 600 collaborations had been initiated through the matching service since November 1966, and that many simpler requests for technical information had been referred to engineers and answered.


In the fall of 1970 E.A.T. began to plan a computer based directory of engineers and artists that would be available to all members called,  "EATEX: A Directory for Art and Technology." Working with Honeywell and with the assistance of John Pan at Bell Laboratories, a pilot project of the directory using the Beldex program was developed using the information from 56 artist and engineer members’ forms to create a sample form of a database that could be used by artists and engineers and could be searched by specialty, and geographical location, and the results printed out.

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